On-site or off-site: which type of scanning is right for you? Both options have their benefits and downsides, which can sway your decision towards one option instead of the other. 

A crucial point to illuminate before you get too deep into this article is that for both options, we’re describing methods you can employ to have your records digitized by a third-party company. To be clear, neither option in this article is covering a do-it-yourself project; instead, we’re writing about working with a scanning company and deciding if you want them to come to you or if you want to send your records to their facility.

With that little clarification out of the way, keep reading to learn about the ups and downs of each option and decide which one is best for you and your digitization project!

What Is On-site Scanning?


On-site scanning is when a company brings its hardware and people to your location(s) to physically scan and digitize your records. 


1. Records don’t leave your care.

The most-cited reason for on-site scanning is that people want their records scanned but don’t want those records to leave their facility. When you have your records scanned at your location, you keep control over the documents and can monitor them throughout the digitization process.

2. No transportation costs.

Scanning on-site eliminates the transportation costs of getting your records from your facility to your scanning partner’s facility. Especially in long-distance cases, this can be a pretty large expense that is eliminated when you consider not having to ship pallets of records back and forth, or have trucks and drivers packing, driving, and delivering material. 

3. Don’t have to undertake packing the records to get somewhere else.

Along with the elimination of transportation costs, you can remove the need to pack up your hard copies. This is something that’s overlooked because packing records doesn’t seem like it’s part of scanning! But, if your files are in drawers, cabinets, on shelves, in boxes in closets, and so on, you’re saving a lot of time not having to pack these up and organize them for transportation to a scanning facility. 

4. Your internal experts are available to provide help.

When you have your records scanned on-site, and the scanning company comes to you, your information experts are on-hand and available to answer questions or help out if any questions come up about your material. Instead of going back and forth through emails or on calls, your people can directly talk with the scanning partner’s employees and help them resolve issues on the spot. 

5. Can potentially utilize some of your people and resources.

Depending on the scope and complexity of your project, you might even be able to involve some of your own people during the scanning project. If this is something you’re trying to do, there could be ways to mix them into the process and help with certain aspects of the work.


1. More expensive.

A majority of the time the reason to keep the records on-site is because of the extremely sensitive nature of the material, though occasionally customers might not understand the challenges associated with on-site scanning and think it’s the same as having their records scanned somewhere else. Either way, on-site scanning is likely to be more expensive than having your records sent to a scanning partner’s facility. Some of the reasons for this are that employees have to travel to your location to do the work, hardware/scanners have to be diverted from normal operations to be set up for your project, and the system that is set up for ingesting and executing projects at your partner’s facility will have to be tweaked to accommodate the on-site aspect of your project. These and other reasons all add up to additional expense for on-site projects. 

2. Not a full-scale scanning setup.

When you decide to have your records scanned at your place, you’re trading convenience (records at your location) for the benefit of a full-blown scanning operations center (scanned at a third-party’s site). Scanning companies build their operations to be as efficient and productive as possible, with multiple machines running, technical experts on-hand, project managers in control, and back-end systems constantly running to monitor projects. When you take your project on-site, you lose some of this benefit because not all of these aspects can be easily transferred to an on-site project. 

3. Takes longer.

When a scanning company provides you with on-site scanning, you’re likely getting a small team of people with a couple of machines to work on your project. As mentioned in the point above, you’re not getting the benefit of the entire scanning engine that you’d get if you sent your records to an off-site scanning facility. Because of the smaller number of people, and fewer machines utilized, to scan at your location, your project could take longer than if you allowed your records off-site. 

4. If there are issues, they may not be able to be resolved by on-site people. 

On-site scanning employees generally include the scanner-operator people, not necessarily the project managers or technical experts. As such, if an issue comes up that involves an aspect of the project that is technically difficult or related to a step in the project process, the employees at  your facility may not be able to resolve the issue. This could cause delays or stoppages that can only be fixed by including experts from the scanning partner’s site, via an on-site visit or through other communications like web meetings or phone calls.

Is on-site scanning right for me?

On-site scanning is the right fit for you if it’s absolutely essential that you have complete control of your records at all times.

The other factors add weight to the decision of on-site vs. off-site, but records control is the heavy of the group. As long as you’re okay with the other pieces that fall into place when you choose on-site scanning (more expensive, extended timeline, etc.), then this is the option for you.

What Is Off-site Scanning?


Off-site scanning is the process of sending your hard copy records to a third party’s facility for the scanning and digital conversion work.


1. Full-scale service.

Choosing to send your records to a scanning company’s facility might be a difficult decision to make, but once you do it you get all the benefits of having your records in an entire ecosystem of digital conversion. Scanning companies are built for digitization and have built their service around taking care of all aspects of your project. 

Once your documents are picked up and brought to the scanning facility, there are warehouse and logistics people to handle your material; there are project managers reviewing your documents and creating your process flow; there are teams of scanner-operators that can scan your records on numerous machines over multiple work shifts; IT folks are available to resolve any technical issues; and software engineers ready to tweak applications and help the scanning team make the project run smoothly. This ecosystem of people that can all apply their knowledge and expertise, and apply it immediately, is available when your records are scanned at a conversion company’s site.

2. Not in your way. 

By sending your records off-site, they’ll be out of your way and you remove the hassle of dealing with the physical files. Additionally, if you’re moving offices or closing down a location, it’s nice to get those hard copy records out of your facility and not have to move them – many clients we work with ask us to pick up the files right away, even if they won’t be scanned immediately, just so they don’t have to include them in a move. 

3. All aspects of your project can be handled, including anomalies and issues.

This ties into the “full-scale service” item above, and it’s worth reiterating: when your records are scanned off-site at a conversion company’s facility, every piece of your project can be managed and handled. This is especially critical when it comes to anomalies and issues that will pop up during the course of your project. 

Instead of finding an issue and having to stop scanning until the right people can be involved, such as a project manager or IT person (in an on-site situation), the issue can be immediately reviewed when your records are off-site. You might save days or weeks of time because the communication is so much quicker and effective when your records are at a scanning facility. 

4. Speed.

Off-site scanning allows for the full weight of a scanning company’s capability to be put into your project. Most companies that provide scanning services have dozens of scanning people that can work on your project, and numerous machines that can be utilized to digitize your records. 

In most on-site scanning situations, a limited number of scanning machines and employees are utilized, which can extend the project’s timeline. Not so with off-site scanning, where a large amount of resources are available and can be flexed to accommodate multiple projects at once.

5. Standard costs.

Scanning off-site and sending your records to a conversion company’s facility has the major benefit of standard costs. Your price for scanning is based on many factors, but most of the time those factors assume that you’ll be sending your material to the scanning company’s facilities. 


1. Records need to be taken away from you.

Off-site scanning does have its potential downsides, the first of which is that your records will have to be sent to your scanning partner’s facility and they’ll be out of your control. This could be a concern for two common reasons: 1) the records contain sensitive information and you’re worried about who’s accessing and handling them, and 2) you are constantly accessing the records and are wondering what you’ll do when you aren’t able to physically retrieve your data. 

For the first item (sensitive information on your records), the way to mitigate your concern is to research the scanning company you plan to work with and make sure that they meet the security requirements for your project.At some point, there’s a level of trust that will have to happen and you move forward, but by investigating a company’s security procedures and credential you can give yourself a better chance of making the right choice. 

For the second item (record retrieval), we’ll cover that in the next section below.

2. Retrieval concerns. 

When your documents aren’t at your facility anymore, you won’t have immediate access to them if you need to pull a record for some type of request. Depending on how often you’re making retrievals from your files, this can be a major concern. 

When you choose off-site scanning, make sure that your scanning partner has a record request process in place so that you can still access the information you need, even if you don’t have the hard copy records with you. 

3. You don’t have your experts on hand for questions or issues.

Off-site scanning removes your ability to have your subject matter experts readily available to answer questions about the scanning project and solve issues as they pop up. When an issue comes up during a project, scanning may have to pause to allow us to contact you and get more information about a particular part of the project, such as a new document type, an indexing anomaly, or a batch of records that don’t fit the scope of work. 

Because our people aren’t on-site with your people, the standard lines of communication (email, phone) will be used and it may take longer to resolve the issue when compared to having our people on-site and talking directly to your folks.

4. Transportation concerns.

Transportation is always a concern due to both the cost of it and the security of your records. On-site scanning eliminates this issue because our people go to you; but off-site scanning does require that you get your records to us in some way, either by delivering it yourself, hiring out a company, or having us come pick it up. 

Location and distance are also factors: if you’re a couple of cities away from our offices, transportation is a minor concern. But if you’re a few states away, the logistics becomes more interesting and complex, and more care has to be taken when planning out how to get the records from one place to the other. 

Is off-site scanning right for me?

Do you want the most cost-effective price, the most efficient project schedule, and a full-service solution taking your project from cradle to grave, all with minimal hassle? Off-site scanning is right for you!

There are trade-offs with off-site scanning (such as less direct control over your files while they’re out of your hands), but every decision you make involves some risk, and you just need to see if that juice is worth the squeeze. In about 99% of cases, off-site scanning is the choice made for the projects we work on. 

It’s not always possible to visit the place where your records will be scanned. To help you out, we’ve created a virtual tour video so you get a glimpse of our headquarters facility and feel better about sending us your materials. 

Next Steps

Reach out to us today! Click the “Get Your Quote” button below, fill out the form, and we’ll quickly reply to you to discuss your project.

Further Reading

For more information about scanning projects and digital conversion, take a look at some of our other articles:

“The BMI Milestone 1 Proof Of Concept Process” is our internal process for creating your project and ensuring your success. When you work with us, for both on-site and off-site scenarios, we’ll use our M1 build-test-refine method to create your unique process flow and get your project from wish to reality. 

“Digitization Is Not A Magic Bullet” is our way of dispelling a few myths about scanning and conversion that cause unrealistic expectations for digitization projects. But to avoid complete doom and gloom, we also include the many benefits of digitization that you can expect and achieve when you decide to convert your records.

“Choosing A Partner For Your Secure Scanning Project” gives you ideas to consider when you choose a company to work with for your digitization project. Regardless of if you choose on-site or off-site scanning, security is important and should weigh in on your decision.